Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

The Day Fergie Rocked United - and Football

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

The Day Fergie Rocked United - and Football

Article excerpt

IT was the spring of 2013 and Sir Alex Ferguson was already busy planning for his 27th season at the helm of the club he adored.

At least, that was the impression he gave. Deep down, the wily Scot knew he was entering the final weeks of his time at United as he neared his 72nd birthday.

Only a select few people were privy to news that would shock the world - Ferguson's wife, Cathy, among them - and they were sworn to secrecy as United closed in on a record 20th league title.

Memories of what happened 12 years previously were still fresh in the memory. A decision Ferguson went on to call the biggest mistake of his career.

The 2001/2002 campaign had not even started when Ferguson announced he would step down, aged 60, at the end of that season. The players were dumbfounded.

Ferguson may have had good intentions when it came to a succession plan, but United were languishing in ninth place before he privately reversed his decision on the night of Christmas Day. They went on to finish the season strongly but, ultimately, trophyless.

Eager to avoid a repeat, as United pulled away from bitter rivals City in the title race, Ferguson carried on as normal and even his closest allies, like first-team coach Rene Meulensteen, were none the wiser.

"The fact he was going to retire or finish came to me and a lot of others as a complete bombshell. He was as sharp as ever. He was always an early bird, always arriving early at Carrington. I didn't read anything in him where it suggested it would be his last season," he told M.E.N. Sport.

"We had very normal staff meetings regarding pre-season. That year we were going to Australia. Sir Alex even mentioned taking us the fact he to retire or to me and a as a bombshell Rene to one of the best vineyards out there. I was looking forward to that! We had possible scouting meetings, possible players we were looking at in terms of trying to build a picture of what we think we needed. All that was ongoing.

"We looked at a few German players like Hummels, who went to Bayern Munich. …

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